Re: Work or Pay Systems - Authorization
From: OC611NGC (
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 16:09:19 -0700 (PDT)
Our community has instituted an authorization policy. No task shall be recognized as legitimate unless authorized by an overseeing committee. It would be nice if we could informally do whatever needed doing. However, the desire for control of tasks by overseers has resulted in a reluctance on the part of individuals (especially me) to pitch in whenever there is a need or a problem.

Here is a partial list of tasks falling under this policy:
1. Miscellaneous cleaning of the common house (occasional sweeping and tidying up).
2. Cleaning the toilets on an as needed basis.
3. Checking the lightbulbs and changing burnt-out ones. If anyone does this without prior authorization they are subject to reprimand.
4. Plugging leaks in the drip irrigation system. Subject to reprimand.
5. Fixing leaky faucets.  Subject to reprimand.
5. Cleaning out clogged lawn sprinklers.  Subject to reprimand.
6. Landscape tasks such as trimming overgrown plants or repairing brown spots in the lawn. Subject to reprimand.

As a result of this policy, most people just watch leaks, dying lawns, and overgrown plants because, we know that we will be chastised if we lift a finger.

This way of having subcommittees of the HOA authorize and oversee everything in the common area is similar to the way standard condominium HOAs achieve upkeep of the property. It is opposite to what I envisioned as the way cohousing was supposed to work.

I think there is a middle ground, but it will require some creating thinking to make this happen.

Norm Gauss

----- Original Message ----- From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 6:21 AM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Work or Pay Systems

On Jul 15, 2008, at 9:12 PM, Jenny Guy wrote:

I'm concerned that this would mean some people's time is seen as
more valuable,
since not everyone would have the aptitude to do certain high-value

The only way to evaluate tasks is on an hour per hour basis.

You will quickly find that all tasks worth having done at all will
have high value because they enrich the life of the community and/or
you are dependent on them being done.

I value the person who cleans the toilets in the CH, a job that would
have a fairly low pay in the general swim of things (pun intended),
because I don't like doing it and it is very important that they be
clean and presentable. And a real value to the package and mail
delivery people because they sometimes come in twice a day when they
only deliver once.

The person who cleans the toilets is a child psychiatrist who often
does it at midnight when she returns from her evening shift an army

I also value people who dust and mop the CH every two weeks -- they
are worth their weight in gold. No one has to go around asking for
someone to "please do this."

Our senior elder who sweeps the walks every week. The "lighting
goddess" who checks all the light bulbs and changes the burned out
ones. And recycles the bulbs. And the person who takes care of the old
batteries -- I'm not even sure who that is. I put them in a big jar on
top of the refrigerator and go blissfully on my way unconcerned that I
am polluting the earth by sending to a landfill.

The person who takes care of the compost and the one who maintains the
recycling bins and dumps the container of discarded junk mail into
them twice a week.

All these people become as important and often more important to daily
life than "high skill" jobs.

In terms of aptitude, the aptitude to sweep those walks or dust the
windowsills -- repeatedly -- is as unique as those of the treasurer.
If I had to do it I would go stark raving mad. And not do a very good
job because I would be trying to get it done as quickly as possible so
I could go do something "more important."

I happily spend time improving and updating the database I use to
print out contact sheets (one of the most praised things I do), to
print out the mail directory so people can get their mail when they
move, and the parking diagram so we can identify wrongly parked cars
rather than towing them away. Or to find the relative of a person who
has had a serious accident.

It's taken me many years to develop these skills but they would have
very low priority if we suddenly had to pick and choose which tasks
got done this month.

Sharon Villines in Washington DC
Where all roads lead to Casablanca

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